Dawn swims and midnight golf as England eases COVID lockdown and sport reopens
Watch: Golf club opens at midnight as lockdown eases
Golfers teed off just after midnight and swimmers made a splash at dawn as England's coronavirus lockdown eased on Monday.
Football and cricket pitches, tennis and basketball courts, outdoor swimming pools, golf courses and sailing clubs are all now free to reopen.
Groups can now meet up again in parks and gardens as two separate households or under the rule of six, with social distancing.
Seven teams of golfers used glow-in-the-dark balls and floodlit greens at the Morley Hayes Golf Club, near Derby, with their opening drives coming at 12.01am.
The seven-hole tournament was held to raise funds for the Nottingham Breast Cancer Research Centre.
Andrew Allsop, managing director of Morley Hayes Golf Club, said: “There was so much interest, because I don’t think there are any places in England that do night golf, and we obviously want to try and get in the records that we’re the first ones to reopen on 29 March.
“I think the buzz has been made even buzzier because it’s such great weather forecast this week. All the fair-weather golfers, everyone’s out and the tees booked from Monday morning first light, 6.30am, right through – and it’s like that all week.
“We’ve been shut six months out of 12 so it’s been very difficult, but we’ll survive and good times are ahead, and like Captain Tom [Moore] said, tomorrow’s another day, so I’m looking forward to it.”
As the morning went on, golfers teed off at clubs across England, while swimmers took an early splash at Hillingdon Lido in Uxbridge, west London, and group exercise classes took place in parks.
Minister for sport and tourism Nigel Huddleston said today was a “really big day” for millions of people who want to “get back to the things that they love”.
He told Sky News: “They are taking the responsibilities, those opening up spaces, really seriously with COVID-secure measures and then the grassroots sport as well, it’s all within guidelines.
“So those who are running these events know what they need to do and they’re doing so very responsibly, so I’m very confident things will open safely.”
The government has unveiled a new slogan to stress the importance of ventilation in reducing the spread of COVID-19: “Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air.”
Prime minister Boris Johnson said: “Despite today’s easements, everyone must continue to stick to the rules n– remember 'hands, face, space', and come forward for a vaccine when called."
Restrictions were eased as official figures showed more than 30 million people in the UK have received a first vaccine dose, accounting for about 57% of all adults.
Johnson said he hopes the easing will “kick-start a Great British summer of sport”.
England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, said: “The evidence is very clear that outdoor spaces are safer than indoors. It is important to remember this as we move into the next phase.”
The next step in the roadmap to easing England’s lockdown comes on on 12 April, when non-essential shops are earmarked to reopen, as well as outdoor hospitality, including pubs and restaurants.
Watch: England's lockdown eased from Monday